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Ecuadorian court fines newspaper, media cannot report sentence

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 3 October 2012 - On Tuesday 2 October, the temporary judge for Children and Adolescents, Byron Conforme Salinas, sentenced the newspaper El Universo's director, Carlos Pérez Barriga, with a US$500 fine for publishing a photograph of the underage children of Assembly members Abdalá Bucaram Pulley and Gabriela Pazmiño in the company of President Rafael Correa.

On 14 August, the National Council for Children and Adolescents, presided over by the Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, Doris Soliz, filed a formal complaint against the paper and the children's parents with the Guayas Court of Justice, based on what it considered was "the use of the children's image in a clearly political context, infringing on and threatening their rights". A few days earlier El Universo had published the photograph with an article titled "In Carondelet, Rafael Correa posed with the son and grandchildren of Abdalá Bucaram". Minister Soliz described the use of children in political matters as "crude and unscrupulous". The complaint was based on item 2 of article 52 of the current Children and Adolescents Code, which states the prohibition "of using children or adolescents in political or religious proselytizing programs or spectacles".

Although the newspaper had been authorized to publish the photograph by the children's parents, the judge fined El Universo in accordance with the already quoted article 52 "for having published the image of protected subjects without hiding or distorting their faces" and ordered that "it should not publish the image of children or adolescents again in the future without taking into consideration their right to (preserve) their image, good name and the privacy of their family environment".

The judge also decided to "forbid the reproduction of this decision by any media, social network or others, under penalty of issuing protective measures ex officio, inasmuch as a simple reproduction would affect what we are protecting", infringing thus the right to information established by the Constitution and international human rights instruments that are part of the national code of law.

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